Bowl eligibility seemed like a long shot for Arkansas when it was 4-5 and had three ranked opponents left on the schedule. The Razorbacks defense had other ideas.
One week after blanking LSU, Arkansas locked up Mississippi and Bo Wallace, holding the Rebels scoreless and forcing six turnovers including an interception return for a touchdown.
Though six wins is something to celebrate in Bret Bielema’s second season after he debuted winless in the SEC, it could have been better considering the Razorbacks’ close losses to Texas A&M, Alabama and Mississippi State. The young Hogs are going to be a dangerous in 2015.
FOOTBALL FOUR: Rating and debating college football and the Playoff
Other winners from Week 13:
Arizona. Before the Wildcats could look ahead to rival Arizona State, there was the matter of a dangerous game at Utah. The cold weather and high altitude didn’t slow down Rich Rodriguez’s offense, which piled up 520 yards against the Utes in a surprisingly easy 42-10 victory. Wildcats starting quarterback Anu Solomon was sidelined after halftime, but freshman Nick Wilson led a ground attack that controlled the ball with 218 yards on 20 carries and three touchdowns.
Arizona’s win means both the Wildcats and Sun Devils will enter next week’s game tied in the loss column at the top of the Pac-12 South with the winner of the USC-UCLA game.
Maryland. It’s been a pretty good Big Ten debut for Maryland. A win at Michigan gave the Terrapins victories at the Big House and Penn State, proving the move from the ACC isn’t going to be as daunting as it might have seemed two years ago when it was announced in the middle of Randy Edsall‘s second season.
The win at Ann Arbor was more impressive because Maryland was without top playmaker Stefon Diggs, but it took advantage of mistakes by the Wolverines in the fourth quarter. With Rutgers at home to close the regular season, a once unlikely 8-4 finish seems very possible for a team picked to finish fifth in the Big Ten East.
Illinois. A 16-14 win against Penn State may have saved coach Tim Beckman’s job — or at least put Beckman in position to secure another season with a win against Northwestern in the season finale. That would lift Illinois into a bowl game, the program’s first under his direction. At the very least, beating Penn State — even a weakened version of Penn State — illustrates a sense of progress, which bodes well for Beckman’s job security.
Nebraska. Each loss — and there have been many — just run together for the Cornhuskers, united by the sort of sloppiness, ugliness, errors and mistakes one might believe would be a thing of the past in Bo Pelini’s seventh season. Consider that in the past 13 months, Nebraska has gone 0-4 against Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin, losing the four games by a combined score of 159-88. It’s not just the losses; it’s the uncompetitive nature of many of the losses. In total, the Cornhuskers seem as far removed from national relevancy as on Pelini’s first day on the job.
Virginia Tech. The good feelings of last week’s upset of Duke were washed away in one of the worst performances in the last 20 years of the Frank Beamer era. Needing a win at Wake Forest to become bowl-eligible for the 22nd consecutive season, the Hokies were shut out in regulation.
Amazingly, the game was still tied. Tech held the Demon Deacons to a field goal in overtime, but couldn’t find the end zone and settled for a field goal. When its second overtime possession went backward and ended with no points, Wake Forest kicked a field goal for its first ACC victory of the season. To continue their bowl streak, the Hokies must beat Virginia at home next week.
Notre Dame. That controversial loss to Florida State seems like a long time ago for the Irish. They lost their third in a row and fourth in five games when Kyle Brindza’s potential tying field goal against Louisville sailed wide right with under a minute to play. The defeat comes on the heels of last week’s shocking home loss to Northwestern. What looked to be a season likely destined for at least a big six bowl game now seems destined to end in Charlotte or El Paso, especially with the banged-up Notre Dame defense having to travel to explosive USC next week.
Rutgers. The numbers aren’t pretty. The Scarlet Knights have now played seven games against Big Ten Conference competition and won two, against also-rans Michigan and Indiana. Both of those victories have come at home; it’s been a house of horrors on the road. Saturday’s 45-3 loss to Michigan State was 35-0 at halftime, meaning the Scarlet Knights’ have trailed at halftime of its three conference road games — Michigan State, Nebraska and Ohio State — by a score of 91-14. Rutgers will reach a bowl game this fall, but the road to six wins hasn’t been pretty.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S WEEK 13 HIGHLIGHTS